The Love of God and the Problem of Evil

I’m currently reading The Faces of Jesus: A Life Story by Frederick Buechner. It is a short book , but as always Buechner has a better way of expressing things I have longed believe. One of the things Christians have longed struggled with is called “The Problem of Evil.” In a nutshell it goes as follows: if God is completely good and all powerful, then why does evil exist? Here’s Buechner’s summary of what is commonly called the “Free Will Defense” to the problem:

It is of the very essence of love to leave us free to respond or not to respond because the moment it attempts to force our hand, it is no longer love but coercion, and what it elicits from us is no longer love but obedience. The greatest single argument against the existence of God is the presence of evil in the world, and to the degree that the Christian faith attempts to answer it, its answer is all tied up in this [the nature of love]. The argument is simply stated: If there is a God who is both good and all powerful, why do terrible things happen in the world? Why does God allow us to murder and wage wars? Why does he allow us to remain indifferent to each other’s needs so that the poor go uncared for and children starve and in a sense all of us go hungry if only for the peace and understanding that the world cannot give? If there is a God, why did he not with his great goodness make things right in the first place, or why does he not with his great power intervene in the affairs of the world to make things right at least in the second place, now? What Christianity in effect seems to say is that God could presumably do these things–could have turned us out perfectly as an inventor turns out a perfect invention or could step in when we get out of line and move us around like pawns on a chessboard. But as Christianity understands it, God does not want us related to him as an invention to an inventor or pawns to a cosmic kibitzer [a meddler who offers unwanted advice to others]. He wants us related to him as children are related to their father. He wants us in other words to love him, and if our love is to be spontaneous and real, we must be free also not to love him with all its grim consequences of human suffering. Evil exists in the world not because God is indifferent or powerless or absent but because man is free, and free he must be if he is to love freely, free he must be if he is to be human.

It has been argued that the “free will defense” explains human, but not natural disasters. The counter argument is that when humanity fell from grace, we took all of creation with us. The human roots of global climate change would be an example of this happens.